Romania Self Drive 3 - The Undiscovered North

Rediscover the Beauty of Yesterday

Summary

Highlights of northern Transylvania combined with off the beaten track places in Maramures and Moldavia.

START - Cluj Napoca / FINISH - Iasi (or Bacau or Suceava)

Activity code: ROFD03

Duration: 10/11 Days

This self-drive holiday is a fascinating journey through the ancient northern lands of Romania and can definitely be described as "off the beaten track". Specifically, it is a tour through the beautiful and unspoilt countryside of Maramures and Moldavia. Our suggested route provides an opportunity to enjoy a stunning drive into a region full of history and dramatic scenery and to really explore and experience the rural life and traditional hospitaility of Romania.

There are many flights into Romania so it is possible to mix and match arrival and departure airports to suit your plans. However, the emphasis on this itinerary is on the northern cities of Transylvania and the regions of Maramures and Bucovina so we would recommend arriving into Cluj or Targa Mures and then departing from Suceava, Bacau or Iasi and we will work the route around you.

This popular self-drive route is a tried & trusted itinerary which will allow you plenty of time to enjoy the countryside as you travel. During your holiday you will traverse the spectacular Carpathian Mountains, take in the mysterious history-filled towns of northern Transylvania and travel around the rural splendour of Maramures & Bucovina - an experience which will afford genuine cultural encounters, leaving you with enduring memories of this truly unique and enchanting country.

Rediscover the World's recommended fly-drives will take you right into the heart of this fascinating country. We will share our knowledge and the experience of our local partners to offer you not just important cultural sights, dramatic scenery and historic locations but the opportunity to spend quality time in the villages, often staying in rural communities as guests of local families, where local culture is at its strongest. The guest houses and hotels in this itinerary are generally small, independent or family-run, properties which add significantly to your travel experience in this fascinating country.

Important Information

Your fly drive can be as active or leisurely-paced as you please. Staying one night at each stop allows the maximum amount of sightseeing; two or more nights will allow you to do more side trips, whilst staying in one place will give you the opportunity to relax and explore the local area.

If you would like to visit these wonderful places without driving then we can supply a private driver for the duration or, alternatively, pre-book train tickets for you between the main locations. We can also pre-book guided sightseeing, lunches, extra activities and visits on your itinerary as required.

Flights are available to book with us through a range of airlines from various UK airports to Romania. If we book your flights this means that your holiday will also be fully ATOL protected.

Prices shown are a guideline "from" (in UK Pounds) and are based on a travelling party of at least 2 adults. Single supplements may need to be applied to the twin/double price and discounts for children (under 12yrs) and/or a 3rd adult sharing a room are available upon request. Quoted prices for individual enquiries will depend upon your chosen accommodation, room availability and dates of travel. We always aim to match a high quality experience with exceptional value for money. Discounts will apply if there are 3 or more people in your travelling party as fixed costs such as transportation and guides will be shared equally between the group.

 

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What's included in your fly-drive holiday:

  • 9 days fully-inclusive car rental.
  • Private airport transfer(s).
  • 9 nights accommodation.
  • Choice of BB or Half Board basis.
  • Vaser Valley Steam Train tickets
  • Fully detailed itinerary with driving routes and sightseeing suggestions.
  • FREE travel app with all your documents, maps, weather & much more.
  • All local taxes.
  • Fully protected for your peace of mind.
  • 24hr local representative services.

Highlights

Itinerary

Fly into Cluj Napoca International Airport; your driver will meet you on arrival for a private transfer to your hotel in the centre of Cluj, a city full of life and energy.

NB. you may prefer to collect your hire car at the airport, depending upon your flight arrival time.

With your free time you can explore the city centre on foot including the Orthodox Cathedral in the Avram Iancu square, the Roman-Catholic Cathedral Saint Michael, one of the most importing Gothic constructions in the country and Banffy Palace, the most representative Baroque building in Transylvania.

Time for more sightseeing in Cluj (particularly if your arrival on day 1 was late in the day).

We will deliver your hire car to your hotel at a time of your choosing for you to head south or west to visit the Apuseni Mountains National Park. As well as some stunning walks there are some fabulous caves (e.g. the famous Bears' Cave) and Karst scenery abounds. If you have time we suggest a visit to the incredible Salt Mine at Turda (just a short drive to the south on the new highway).

If you wish to explore the wild Apuseni National park further then we can add an extra night in Cluj or you may like to consider spending time near the national park itself, such as Arieseni or Belis.

From Cluj in the northwest of Transylvania we suggest driving north through the hills to Dej and then entering into Maramures county via its main town, Baia Mare (two route options available). Afterwards the road takes you over the Gutai Mountains to the frontier town of Sighetu Marmatiei, just across the river from the Ukraine. Settle in for a traditional night in this remote part of Romania.

Recommended places to stay

After breakfast we would recommned a short drive west to visit the unique Merry Cemetery in the village of Sapanta; on your return to Sighet you may wish to look in at the excellent Museum to the Victims of Communism, housed in a former prison in the centre of town. Your afternoon is likely to be taken up with visits into the surrounding countryside to see both the stunning scenery and the wonderful wooden churches, primarily in the Iza valley. Don't miss a chance to see the impressive collection of buildings at the Barsana Monastery, known as the "Holy Mother's Entrance", and many other UNESCO listed locations such as Ieud and Rozavlea.

** depending upon your schedule on day 3 you may be able to include some of the above places a day earlier to share out the sightseeing.

Recommended places to stay

On this day we have included a fabulous experience, a chance to leave the car for the morning and travel on the steam train through the Vaser Valley, from Viseu to Paltin. The railway line passes through the most spectacular landscape and includes a picnic lunch at Paltin.

In the mid afternoon return to Viseu to begin a relatively short drive south via Nasaud to Bistrita, made famous by its association with the journey of Jonathan Harker in Bram Stoker's Dracula.

Recommended places to stay

After a short visit of Bistrita you have the day to travel slowly over the incredible Tihuta Pass, you may even consider a lunch break at Dracula's Castle Hotel near the top. Coming down from the pass you will encounter Vatra Dornei a spa town which has not yet been redeveloped from its communist days. Just a little further along you come to the simple and charming village of Vama where we recommend staying for 2 nights to allow you to explore the region at a relaxed pace.

You may have time today to visit some of the world famous painted monasteries but why not relax in the friendly surroundings of your guest house and leave the sightseeing for tomorrow.

From Vama it is easy to arrange a circuit of the main monasteries. Moldovita (UNESCO) dating back to 1532 has the aspect of a fortress and Sucevita, the last and the most magnificent monastic achievement among the painted monasteries in Bucovina is also a great place for a traditional lunch. The next painted monastery you should visit is Voronet, the "Eastern Sistine Chapel" where the dominant colour is the famous "Voronet Blue" and finally, Humor Monastery, dating from 1530, which has red as its dominant colour.

In the afternoon it is possible to do some hiking or we could arrange for a demonstration of egg-painting – an old tradition from Bucovina and to take a horse-drawn carriage around Vama and meet the naturally hospitable local people.

Day 8 -  a visit to Bucovina's capital, Suceava, and then head south to Piatra Neamt. Along the way you might wish to visit the Agapia and Varatec monasteries - Agapia is one of Romania's largest convents with 350 nuns, well known thanks to its carpet and embroidery workshops. Varatec Monastery is a newer monastic settlement, which has a museum that hosts many valuable religious objects and books mostly made by nuns. Your route could also continue its journey to Tarpesti, where you could visit the house of the popular artist Nicolae Popa, author of the famous ceremonial masks and enjoy a traditional lunch.

Day 9 - on your free day in this area we can suggest some hiking in the Bicaz Gorge and Ceahlau mountains, enjoy a visit to the refurbished historic centre of Piatra Neamt with a ride in the cable car and generally immerse yourself in the local cuisine and way of life.

A relatively short drive through the lovely Moldavian countryside will bring you to the capital of this region, Iasi. The city is full of historical treasures and a youthful atmosphere, just like Cluj, Iasi is a big university town. Iasi has an air of sophistication, its main sights include the Church of the Three Hierarchs, the huge Metropolitan cathedral, the Palace of Culture, the Museum of the Union and some fabulous monasteries overlooking the city from surrounding hills.

Depending upon flight time - free time to explore city and then drive to Iasi Airport for your flight home (directly or via Bucharest).

** The final vew days on this itinerary can be easily adjusted if your flight schedule works out better to depart from Suceava or Bacau.

Flexible Tailor-Made Holidays

  • We believe passionately that no two holidays should be the same.
  • With our flexible tailor-made holiday options you can travel at your own pace.
  • Rediscover a city, a resort or an island in a weekend or longer.
  • Take a small group tour or embark upon a more adventurous trip.

Travel Knowledge

  • We have all travelled extensively and will be happy to share our experiences.
  • Personally-chosen hotels, riads, guest houses & apartments in places we know and love.
  • Individual sightseeing recommendations and route planning.
  • Add excursions, activities and food & wine experiences (one of our passions).

Why book a Fly Drive ?

  • Accommodation choices are small, independent or family-run properties which add significantly to your travel experience.
  • Stress-free arrival & departure transfer service.
  • Detailed driving directions, parking info, suggested routes & sightseeing ideas.
  • Fully protected for your peace of mind & financial security.